5 December 2019


United Exports, a blueberry producer in Southern Africa, has become a member of 2X Challenge – an initiative by IFU in cooperation other development finance institutions to promote women's opportunities.

IFU is committed to supporting gender equality in our investments, as a driver for commercial performance but particularly to promote women’s economic empowerment.

To further step up our effort, IFU has joined the 2X Challenge, which aims to advance opportunities for women through enterprise support, leadership and career progression, quality employment and products, as well as services that enhance women’s economic participation. The 2X Challenge aims to identify eligible businesses that are committed to one or more of these areas – with a target of achieving USD three billion in commitments by the end of 2020.

United Exports joins the 2X Challenge

In early 2019, IFU, on behalf of the Danish SDG Investment Fund, disbursed a loan of EUR 10 million to United Exports in South Africa supporting the extension and upgrading of its blueberry production. While United Exports is a global business operating on five continents, the thrust of their strategy is focused on Southern Africa.

During the high picking season, United Exports employs more than 5,000 people – of whom nearly 90 per cent of the seasonal and more than 50 per cent of the permanent workers are women.

The high number of women employees qualifies United Exports to become part of the 2X Challenge and against that backdrop, IFU and United Exports have signed a memorandum of understanding reflecting United Exports’ commitment to women’s economic empowerment.

– We are very pleased to welcome United Exports onboard the 2X Challenge, and we are looking forward to supporting and following the new initiatives they are taking in improving the opportunities and conditions for their women staff, both permanent and seasonal, says Birgitte Bang Nielsen, Sustainability Director at IFU.

“We are very proud to become a 2X Challenge company, supporting an important agenda and driving continual improvement by empowering women in the workplace and improving their life conditions.”

Rowen Markie, Sustainability and Transformation Manager, United Exports.

Several new initiatives

As part of the 2X Challenge, United Exports has launched several new initiatives that support the inclusion, participation and promotion of women at its South African IFU production sites, for seasonal and permanent staff. These comprise a variety of quality-based programs and initiatives, including health awareness days and a mobile clinic service, for example.

Moreover, United Exports is initiating a program – planned by the social counselling organization ProCare – to identify issues and root-cause problems followed by an intervention plan involving social support and counselling. This includes: 1) emotional adjustment such as self-esteem; 2) legal issues e.g. domestic violence; 3) workplace conflict, motivation and discrimination; 4) parental guidance including marital problems, unwanted pregnancies and stress; and 5) substance dependency and addiction.

IFU to register EUR 10 million

The target for the 2X Challenge is to reach USD three billion in commitments by 2020, and IFU will now register the EUR 10 million in loan financing for United Export as a 2X Challenge investment.